Meet the Team
President & Chief Executive Officer
In his 35-year career, Ken Blair has developed, restructured, or resurrected more than 20 companies in a broad array of industries, including manufacturing, the petroleum industry, construction, biotechnology, health services, and venture capital management. As CEO of Sapphire Springs, his main responsibilities are to inspire and assist senior staff in managing existing product and service offerings, developing new offerings, reaching new markets, assembling a best-in-class team, and addressing the financial requirements of managing growth and operations. Ken achieves success in his ventures by employing creative and practical approaches to achieve sustainable results.
Chief Technology Officer
Justin brings a wealth of expertise from his Bachelor of Science in Aquaculture, Masters of Engineering in Aquaculture Biotechnology, and years of management experience in all stages of aquaculture production. Justin pioneered many “firsts” in the aquaculture industry. By 1998, Justin had built the first greenfield Recirculating Aquaculture System (RAS) facility in British Columbia. He also developed the world’s first monosex female coho broodstock program. His farm was certified as the first Office International des Epizooties disease-free compartment for finfish in the world. In 2012, Justin had the first organic seafood on the market certified under the Canadian standard. Using all the knowledge he’s obtained throughout his career, he created the Graduate Certificate in Aquaculture program at the University of British Columbia in 2020.
Prior to joining Sapphire Springs, Justin managed 120 employees while producing 4,000 MT of salmon annually at Target Marine, a company he eventually sold to Greig Seafood. Now he uses his expertise to chair the Technical Committee and Standards Interpretation Committee in addition to being the president of the Canadian Organic Seafood Association. As the Chief Technology Officer at Sapphire Springs, Justin is responsible for developing the future path of the company by encompassing science, research, business development, product development, and fish health and welfare.
Chief Operating Officer
A graduate of the University of Waterloo, with a Bachelor of Math degree, as well as an MBA from Wilfrid Laurier University, Doug brings an accountable people orientated perspective to the company. His extensive experience in financial and team performance is well suited as the driving force towards ensuring Icy Waters Ltd. hits its marks and delivers on its ambitions. Beyond team development and looking for new improvements, he will be inhaling the mouth-watering smoke from his backyard kitchen as this self-proclaimed foodie tests a new rub or creates a new chutney.
Doug has taken on many roles during his career that have helped advance aquaculture business practices. From initiating an expansion of broodstock research to developing new product lines that increased profitability, he has shown his dedication to and vast knowledge of the aquaculture industry. Doug used his management and problem-solving skills he learned in his career to lead a team through a transitional period during the pandemic, where he played a pivotal role in making Arctic char more desirable for family restaurants and grocery distribution channels.
Charles (Chuck) LaFlèche
Chief Financial Officer
Chuck has founded and led a number of companies in the technology, healthcare, and philanthropy sectors, including QHR Technologies, Momentum Healthware, Global Philanthropic, and the St. Boniface Hospital Foundation. He has also served on the Conference Board of Canada Council of Foundation Executives and the Standards Council of Canada, giving him a wide range of experience and a lengthy list of career highlights.
A Fellow of the Chartered Professional Accountants and recipient of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal, Chuck brings a wealth of business and financial knowledge to Sapphire Springs, where he is responsible for all the financial aspects of the business as well as overseeing Human Resources and Health and Safety.
Vice President of Product Development
Brian brings decades of experience to Sapphire Springs from his role as Technical Director at a vertically integrated multinational packaging company. While there, his responsibilities included overseeing various departments, such as Research and Development, Innovation Engineering, Field Engineering Services, and Laboratory Services. It’s there where he managed a multimillion dollar annual budget while leading a dedicated team of 45 professionals.
An expert in polymer science, Brian’s approach to product development and process enhancement is rooted in a deep understanding of consumer trends, food processing techniques, and packaging material engineering attributes essential for extending the shelf life of food products. When he’s not playing an instrumental role in designing processing facility layouts and developing new value-added products and packaging at Sapphire Springs, you can find Brian delivering technical seminars on packaging for university classes and international food and beverage companies around the world.
Mr. Edwards graduated from the Fish and Wildlife program at Sir Sandford Fleming College in Lindsay, Ontario. He joined Icy Waters in 1995 and has experience in every role at the company. Mr. Edwards applies his two decades of experience to support operations in all departments. His efforts in process management have been critical to Icy Waters growth in recent years. Mr. Edwards resides in Whitehorse with his two teenage children.
Vice-President of Business Development / Interim Hatchery Manager
With Business Analysis training from McMaster University and 15 years as a leading consultant on strategic business processes, Rob brings a uniquely entrepreneurial perspective to Sapphire Springs that he uses to analyze and enhance business performance. He also has experience leading large, mission-critical projects at companies such as Canada Life and Assante over a span of 25 years, which included a seven-year initiative to outsource IT work in India and a two-year consolidation of business practices for three different sports and entertainment management companies.
Rob’s experience leading global projects and identifying, evaluating, and managing risk has given him the knowledge to operate the existing hatchery and identify new business opportunities for Sapphire Springs.
Mr. Renner graduated from the University of Savoie, France with an Aquaculture Bachelor in 2008. He started with Icy Waters as a university student on a co-op placement. Upon graduation, he returned to Icy Waters as a Hatchery Technician. In 2011, Mr. Renner was promoted to Hatchery Supervisor and is responsible for overseeing the health and growth of our broodstock, ova and fingerlings.
Prior to Icy Waters, he worked with a variety of European companies that produced trout, turbot, salmon, European catfish and oysters. Mr. Renner has made Whitehorse his home where he lives with his wife and daughter.
Dr. Micheal H. Papst
Michael’s impressive academic background includes a PhD in Zoology from the University of Manitoba, a Masters of Science in Biology from York University, and a Bachelor of Science (Honours) from the University of Waterloo. He went on to a research role at Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans, where he stayed for over three decades, showing his dedication to advancing scientific research. This led to Michael publishing in various academic journals throughout his career, particularly on the topics of Arctic char and aquaculture.
From 1991–1997 and later in 2010, Michael received Privy Council of Canada appointments to the Fisheries Joint Management Committee of the Inuvialuit Final Agreement, showcasing his influence in fisheries management. Now at Sapphire Springs, Michael is responsible for conducting crucial research activities, including trials on feed, nutrition, photoperiod, and water quality.
Physical Systems Manager
Chris Wach brings an accomplished background in construction and project management to his role at Sapphire Springs. With a variety of roles, his career has included a Supervisor position for the North Perimeter Construction in Winnipeg, where he was a pre-engineered building erector. Chris has also served as a pipefitter at Kewitt Canada and gained experience as a receiver at MacDon Industries. To round out his experience, he also ventured into entrepreneurship as the Principal of Chris Wach Enterprises.
Chris has a comprehensive educational background, holding an Honours Certificate of Completion from Red River College Polytechnic in the Building Construction Technician course. Additionally, he has undergone equipment training for Platform and Aerial Manlifts, Telehandlers, Scissor Lifts, and various other mid-heavy construction site equipment. At Sapphire Springs, Chris is responsible for ensuring the seamless operation of physical systems, including those dedicated to fish rearing and processing.
Construction Project Organization
Vice-President of Operations in BC
Growing up on a farm in southwest Manitoba, Kurt’s life is rooted in agriculture. It led him to achieve a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Engineering from the University of Manitoba and to eventually becoming a Registered Professional Engineer in British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, and Ontario, showcasing his depth of understanding for engineering and dedication to the field.
Kurt enjoyed a 30-year career in industrial general construction specializing in water and wastewater treatment plants and civil projects. He gained leadership experience from being a General Manager for a $50 million contracting firm, where he managed 150 employees. His comprehensive knowledge on environmental and construction projects provides Sapphire Springs significant knowledge on the overall construction of all of its facilities. Kurt also offers full-time oversight of BC operations post construction.
With 15 years of experience in the agri-food industry, Adam brings a wealth of skills in both structural and mechanical disciplines. He has executed major plant shutdowns and overhauls involving crews of up to 40 people. Adam has played pivotal leadership roles, serving as a shareholder and manager at Sperling Industries Ltd. as well as Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Canadian Institute of Steel Construction, showcasing his commitment to industry advancement.
Adam has also had involvement in the construction and maintenance of large-scale food production facilities, including milling operations, canola oil processing sites, feed mills, and potato processing facilities. Now Adam uses his extensive leadership and agri-food experience to oversee construction contracts and procurement at Sapphire Springs.
Brock, a seasoned Professional Engineer with more than 30 years in the field, has accumulated expertise in manufacturing, engineering, and information technology. He currently serves as the Principal of Braecrest Design and President of RB Associates, using his management experience to support development and operations for the companies. His prior experience as the Chief Operating Officer at CommStream, a prominent telecommunications company, shows his commitment to corporate leadership.
Brock brings in-demand skills from his various management, engineering and IT roles over a span of 13 years with companies such as Buhler Versatile Inc., Versatile Farm Equipment Operations, New Holland Canada, and Ford New Holland Canada. Now at Sapphire Springs, Brock uses his expert management and leadership skills to oversee communications and the maintenance of construction management software and databases.
Dr. Dominic Ryan
Dominic is well-known in the field of physical organic chemistry, holding a PhD from McGill University and using his career to advance scientific knowledge. As the former Senior Director of Discovery Technologies at Cubist Pharmaceuticals, he played a pivotal role in the research and development of new pharmaceuticals, earning recognition with the CSO’s Innovation Award for his contributions. Dominic further served as the Chief Science Officer at X-Biotix Therapeutics, a biotechnology company specializing in small molecule antibiotic scaffolds.
His history in biotechnology also includes roles at SmithKline Beecham, GSK, and Millennium Pharmaceuticals. Currently, as the Chief Science Officer at Viotika Life Sciences, Dominic is part of an international consortium of academics, researchers, and industry leaders with a suite of diverse and novel initiatives to address antimicrobial resistance. Now contributing his wealth of knowledge to Sapphire Springs, Dominic provides research support to our Research Coordinator Dr. Michael Papst.
An expert in property assessment and municipal taxation, Rob brings decades of experience to Sapphire Springs. In his multi-faceted career, Rob served as an Accredited Assessor with the City of Winnipeg for 20 years and served one term as a councillor in the Rural Municipality of Lac Du Bonnet, where he introduced a number of fundraising initiatives to support local programming. He is also the former Executive Director of Bunibonibee Cree Nation in Oxford House, showcasing his leadership in community-focused roles.
Using his several years of experience as a realtor and an independent property assessment consultant in addition to his municipal job background, Rob provides expertise in property assessment, municipal taxation, and other issues that pertain to the company’s relationship with the Rural Municipality of Rockwood, which is home to Sapphire Springs’ first facility.